November 07, 2021 8 min read

Many fitness celebrities swear by their pre-workout supplement. But not all pre-workouts are alike, and some people believe that they are bad for you.

So…are they bad for you?

Well, there are many benefits to using a pre-workout supplement before you hit the gym. But there also are potential side effects depending on the supplement you choose. Read on to learn more about the benefits and side effects of pre-work supplements.

What Are the Benefits of Pre-Workout?

Generally, the benefits of taking most types of pre-workouts outweigh the side effects.

1. You Will Feel More Energetic

There is no denying it. When you drink a pre-workout drink, you will feel more energy before your workout. This is because most pre-workout drinks, such as CHARGED AF, contain caffeine, up to the equivalence of 3 cups of coffee. And according to the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, caffeine can be helpful when working out.

HIIT Workout on the Beach

Drinking a little caffeine before your workout can improve your body's fat-burning abilities, as well as your reaction time. Caffeine will additionally limit the amount of fatigue you feel while working out.

This means you can work out longer and harder than before, which will help increase your muscle and endurance gains.

2. Vitamins and Amino Acids

Besides just containing the caffeine needed to get you going, most pre-workouts contain vitamins and minerals that are good for health and muscle development. Plus, they also contain amino acids to help with muscle development.

The most common vitamin found in pre-workouts is b vitamins, but Beta-Alanine and L-Citrulline can also sometimes be found in the mix. The three of these vitamins work together to help you gain muscle mass, but in a way that is lean and attractive. They also support weight loss, heart health, and cardiovascular fitness.

And if you pick up a product like ADABOLIC, you will find that the vitamin list doesn’t end there. This unique pre-workout formula is packed with Vitamin C, H, B, D, and E, meaning that not only will you increase your gains, but you will support your overall immune health.

3. Pre-Workouts Often Contain Carbs

Consuming carbs before a workout is an essential part of sports nutrition. Especially the simple sugar carbohydrates typically found in pre-workout formulas.

These simple sugar carbohydrates will keep your energy stores full during the beginning of your workout. This is especially necessary when it comes to a workout like a run or cycling. And the best part is, these carbs often contain little or no calories, making them a better alternative than eating something before your workout.

But remember that all carbs aren’t created equal. It’s important to get both complex and simple carbs in your diet. You can balance the two of these using a diet filled with whole food combined with a workout powder.

4. You’ll Get More Out of Working Out

Although the main purpose of pre-workout is to increase your muscle growth and energy as you work out, one of the lesser-known benefits is that it can also increase your focus. This means you are more likely to stay on task and get more out of your workout.

Plus, many pre-workouts speed up the fat-loss process in the body. Therefore, not only will you feel more focused as you work out, but you will also increase the gains you achieve with every gym visit.

This is especially true when your pre-workout powder contains ingredients like Yohimbe and Afromomum Melegueta, two thermogenic ingredients that are known to increase the body’s ability to burn calories by increasing your energy levels.

5. Recovery

For those that work out a lot, it is common to experience things like muscle fatigue and pain as your body builds new muscles. Pre-workouts help with this too, as they streamline the recovery process by pumping more blood into your muscles.

This is mostly done thanks to the caffeine mentioned earlier, but other herbs are commonly added to pre-workouts to increase their recovery effect. These herbs come in a few different varieties, but the most common one found in fitness products is ashwagandha.

What Are the Side Effects of Pre-Workout?

Like most supplements, pre-workout can have side effects. The good news is there are very few side effects to using pre-workout, but below are some of them that you may experience.

1. You May Feel a Bit Jittery

As mentioned above, one of the main ingredients found in most pre-workouts is caffeine. And although this is for an energy boost, it can make some people who have a highly sensitive nervous system, feel as if they are jittery or anxious.

This is especially true when too much caffeine is ingested. This is why you should always follow label recommendations when it comes to how much pre-workout you drink and when. You will know you’ve had too much caffeine if you start to feel an increased heart rate, headaches, anxiety, or experience any difficulty sleeping.

Too much caffeine can be deadly, especially if you are prone to heart conditions. Because caffeine increases blood pressure, consuming too many mg of caffeine in one day could cause a heart attack. Generally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends capping caffeine intake at 350 mg per day for a healthy adult. If you suffer from high blood pressure, you will want to discuss it with your doctor before taking a pre-workout.

And just because you experience side effects from the caffeine doesn’t mean you can’t have pre-workout; it just means you may need to find one that contains less caffeine or try a smaller dose.

2. You May Have a Reaction to the Vitamins

Pre-workouts contain a large variety of vitamins and minerals. And although this mixture is very good for your muscles and body as a whole, there are occasions where some people may have reactions to one of the vitamins in the mix.

Beta-alanine, an amino acid, is the main ingredient that athletes find themselves reacting to in pre-workout. While it increases exercise performance, it can also cause paresthesia. This is a tingling sensation in your hands and feet. While not life-threatening, it can be very uncomfortable for some people.

Another common ingredient that many athletes find can have unpleasant effects such as skin-flushing, is niacin, especially when taken in too large of a dose. Like beta-alanine, this isn’t dangerous, but it can be uncomfortable and unpleasant to look at.

Like with caffeine, you can reduce the side effects of these two vitamins by reducing your dose. Or you can try a special mixture, like our VEG-BCAA that doesn’t contain any beta-alanine. If you commonly have reactions to vitamins and minerals found in dietary supplements, it is best to discuss them with your doctor before taking any type of pre-workout powder.

3. Your Water Retention May Increase

The main issue many athletes find when using pre-workout is that it increases their water retention. This is because pre-workout products typically contain creatine, which has been shown in some studies to cause some unpleasant side effects.

These effects include weight gain, digestive issues, and bloating from water retention. These side effects are typically mild, and according to the aforementioned studies, generally harmless. But if you are having an issue with creatine, several pre-workouts don’t contain this ingredient that you can try.

4. Your Stomach Might Get Upset

Unfortunately, people with sensitive stomachs can struggle when it comes to using a pre-workout. This is because several of the ingredients in most pre-workout powders can cause some mild stomach upset.

These ingredients are as follows:

  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Magnesium
  • Creatine
  • Caffeine

Having a sensitive stomach doesn’t mean you can’t take pre-workout however, as it is still an option for you. You will just need to adjust the method you use to take them. Taking them with more water can minimize your chances of experiencing stomach upset.

And don’t forget, there are many different types of pre-workout supplements on the market. If the first one you try upsets your stomach, try another to see if you have less of a reaction.

5. Pre-Workouts Can Give You a Headache

The final side-effect of pre-workout mixtures that need to be discussed is the fact that they could potentially give you a headache. This is caused by an ingredient called citrulline. Citrulline is very beneficial because it widens your blood vessels, therefore increasing blood flow to your muscles, which helps them to grow.

But this increased blood flow is a double-edged sword, as it can also give you a headache in the process. Generally, if you suffer from headaches from citrulline, you will want to avoid this ingredient completely as you will likely still react to smaller doses.

Should You Use Pre Workouts?

All of the above side effects may be worrying you a bit. Especially if you are experiencing some of them and just now realizing they are coming from the pre-workout powder you are consuming.

The bottom line is, the benefits you gain from taking a pre-workout tend to far outweigh the side effects.

And there are so many different pre-workout formulas on the market, that you shouldn’t just give up because one caused you to experience side effects. Shop around a bit and find the pre-workout that is best for you. And if you have questions about certain ingredients, be sure to bring up these concerns with a medical professional and your personal trainer. 

Does an Energy Drink Count as a Pre-Workout Beverage?

Currently, there are several energy drinks like Monster, Red Bull, and Bing available on the market (just to name a few) and some of them may contain similar additives to those found in pre-workout powders. This may lead you to think that they would make a good beverage to consume before a workout.

It is never advised to take an energy drink as a pre-workout beverage. Although it may help you through a high-intensity workout, pre-workout powders are specially formulated to help with muscle building as well as overall health. Energy drinks are typically packed with sugar, and other ingredients to help the user stay awake rather than focusing on healthy gains.

And these sugars, while similar to the simple carbohydrates in pre-workouts, will usually spike your blood sugar, causing a crash that most gym-goers won't enjoy. Pre-workouts are formulated specifically to boost athletic performance while minimizing the crash you will experience later.

Alternatives to Pre-Workouts

Now there is a small chance, that no matter what pre-workout formula you try, that you may find you have adverse reactions to them. The good news is, even if you can’t take a pre-workout, there are many other options on the market.

The best advice if you can’t take a pre-workout is to eat a balanced diet filled with whole foods. Focus on getting your complex carbohydrates, and lean proteins each day before you head to the gym for your workout. 

Light Healthy Snack made from Banana Slices and Cashew Butter on Grey Background

Below are some common foods that can replace a pre-workout beverage:

  • Bananas with peanut butter
  • Wheat crackers with a slice of cheese
  • Almonds with some berries

For those looking for maximum muscle gains without a pre-workout powder, it is best to enlist the help of a personal trainer. They will help you to create a diet and workout plan to help you achieve your goals. 

Ready to Give Pre-Workout a Shot?

Overall, there are many benefits and side-effects to taking a pre-workout before you head to the gym. But the side effects, while negative, are typically very small and not very serious. Thus, you should definitely consider adding a pre-workout to your routine. 

Find the vitamins and minerals that your body is lacking, and pick up a pre-workout that will help boost those in your system today. And before you know it, you will be on your way to some amazing gains!